After a harrowing and likely traumatic experience last month, I have no choice but to once again adopt the title of 'activist.' The events of February have convinced me, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we as a country will never be safe as long as karaoke exists.
With a name coined by the Japanese to describe the difference between a professional singer (such as Lindsay Lohan) and the average bar-going howler, karaoke has permeated our iron-clad cultural defenses and worked its way into a weekly gig at any number of local bars. Armed with midi-like instrumental tracks and binders filled with the cream of the 80s crop, the call of karaoke evokes sirens (in the Homer sense) and sirens (in the Ambulance sense); alluring and ear-piercing, all at once.
But most dangerous is the fact that karaoke is an equal-opportunity activity. It can be performed at any time, in any number of places, by any person who chooses. While this appeals to scads of songsters the world around, I fear that they do not understand the gravity of the situation. Fortunately, government intervention is warranted. Karaoke falls within the criteria of those things the government has to sworn to shield and protect its citizenry from; namely:
a. Anything that, though fun for many, would prove harmful to others
b. Anything that, though fun for many, would prove harmful to abusers themselves
c. Anything that, though fun for many, would have been discouraged in 1956
And though it's difficult to say how Ike and the baby boomers would've received the activity, one thing is indisputable: at any given moment karaoke, like Paris Hilton in an F-14, has the potential to inflict an astronomical amount of harm to a group of innocent and unsuspecting bystanders.
Nowhere was this more evident that at Manhattan's "Second on Second" and its mid-February karaoke contest. A flyer in the bar's window promised an iPod to the winner and I, perpetually convinced that I can do anything, expertly, immediately guaranteed victory to myself. I spent the next week practicing Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" at very low volumes while watching the music video, and when game night came around, I felt ready. So ready, in fact, that I dressed exactly like Springsteen had in the video. This, as has too often been the case, would prove to be a terrible, terrible idea.
Arriving at the bar with an unfortunately-large group of friends and my Springsteenian outfit concealed beneath a hoodie, I sidled into a corner booth and waited for my time to shine. When the first round began, a typical karaoke mix emerged. The eventual winner, Sara, had a voice that could stop a bullet mid-flight or calm a rabid jackal. The rest of the semi-finalists effortlessly carried their tunes. Even the MC and judges crooned with the best of them.
Then, on the other side of the spectrum, were a couple of painful, no-talent hacks. Or rather, just me. Other people were not good, sure. But I was bad. Real bad. And not in the funny, "what an entertaining character!" sense. No, it was bad in the "this man is going to die penniless and alone" sense, and standing there awkwardly in a soaking, unbuttoned white collared shirt certainly didn't help.
I still don't know what happened, and thus refuse to accept blame for the meltdown. I knew that song cold. I had the confidence. And the sleeves of my shirt were rolled well above my prairie-like biceps. But in the end, I was that jackass standing in front of the room dressed as Bruce Springsteen, showcasing to the world that I had actually prepared for this event and still performed that terribly. At that moment, one thing became very clear: I am not strong enough to coexist with karaoke.
That's why we need to rid the world of this disastrous pastime. Everyone says "it won't happen to me," but it can and it will. It happened to me. I practiced singing and dancing in my room for a week. I wore a costume. I dumped a glass of water on myself mid-performance to simulate sweat. I sang with all the musical quality of a dying air-horn. And I paid $10 to be allowed to do all this. Yes, I fell victim to karaoke.
And I don't want to see the same thing happen to you.